CRITTERS AT BRAZOS BEND STATE PARK--RAT SNAKES
This page was born 3/25/2017.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update: 07/07/2017
Images and contents on this page copyright 2002-2017 Richard M. Dashnau   

Here are my other Brazos Bend and/or critter pages: 
 ----------------------------------------------------------------                  OR,  FOR OTHER ANIMALS:
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Introduction                  Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Snakes-nonvenomous 1-------------------------------------------      Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Snakes-nonvenomous 2-------------------------------------------------Insects, non-toxic
Snakes-nonvenomous 3------------------------------------------------Spiders 
Snakes-nonvenomous 4------------------------------------------------
Snakes-venomous
------------------------------------------------------Mammals 
Snakes-Texas Rat Snakes------------------------------------------------
Birds-Waders
----Birds-Raptors---------------------------------     Lizards!--Turtles!

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 That's me in the Nature Center at Brazos Bend State Park in 2016. I'm holding a Texas Rat Snake that we have there for show.  I've gotten enough images of Rat snakes to collect them here.

In "Texas Snakes-Identification, Distribution, and Natural History", by John E. Werler and James R. Dixon (3rd printing 2002) I have the following basic information about Texas Rat Snakes:
Texas Rat Snake ,Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri  is one of the longest snakes species found in Texas. Most adults grow to be 42 - 72 inches long. Colors can vary, but adult snakes' marking patterns usually have
a median row of large dark blotches displayed against a lighter background color (usually yellowish or grayish). Then below them are are series of alternating blotches.  Scales on the face are white on the lips,
across the lower jaw, and on the throat.  The belly is marked with darker squarish blotches, and the underside of the tail is usually grey. Most of the scales are smooth, but scales near the spine are keeled.
From descriptions in the book, Texas Rat Snakes prefer warm-blooded prey. They will hunt mammals and birds; and will also eat bird eggs. Sometimes Texas Rat Snakes are called "Chicken Snakes". Texas
Rat Snakes are very good climbers. These snakes have a somewhat different body shape than other snakes. Most snakes are round in cross-section, with the belly scales making a relatively small flat area. Rat
Snakes have a much wider belly profile, and the cross section resembles the shape of "a loaf of bread". This wider belly area may enhance the Rat Snakes' ability to climb. (More comments about climbing will 
appear below.)
Over the 15 or so years that I've been volunteering at Brazos Bend State Park (BBSP), I've encountered Texas Rat Snakes out on the trails. I've decided to collect the various images and video clips I've taken 
of them on a single page. The oldest material will be on the bottom. 

(Note added 7/7/2017) In the study "Gripping during climbing of arboreal snakes may be safe but not economical" (Greg Byrnes and Bruce C. Jayne Biology Letters 2014 10, 20140434, published 20 August 2014)
The physical force exerted by 5 different species of snakes was measured as they climbed a vertical pole that was equipped with pressure sensors and covered with textured grip tape to roughen the surface.
All of the snakes climbed this surface using a "concertina" motion--that is they climbed by coiling and extending their bodies in sections. One section or loop would grip, allowing another section to extend up;
or to pull up. Results showed that all of the snakes could grip the pole with enough force to support 3 times their body weight on that surface. But they didn't use that much force all of the time, all of them did it occasionally.
It's reasonable to assume the Texas Rat Snakes can also exert these forces. The August 17, 2014 video clip of the snake climbing down the bird box post shows this coiling and gripping as it moves down the post..

August 17, 2014 (posted 6/29/17); I noticed this Rat Snake in one of the bird boxes in 40 Acre Lake. This is the same birdbox that had a serpent "guest" on May 14th. I filmed
video as the snake left the box. These images are frame grabs from the video. The video can be seen here.  The snake moved up to the back of the box.

   

Then the snake moved down the rear of the box--probably following the support pipe.  I noticed a large lump in the snake (last picture below right)                                                                                                                                                                
    

 This was an impressive snake. Look at the size compared with the support pipe and the bird box. The snake was able to support its weight(without sliding down the pole) while it 
reached over to the stump.  
The snake bridged the gap (cantilevered) to the nearby stump, and moved off into cover.
    

June 08, 2014 (posted 5/10/17); While walking the Elm Lake Trail at Brazos Bend State Park, I encountered this Texas Rat Snake. The following images are from single photos or edited from frame grabs from the video clips
I filmed.
I was amazed at how easily the snake moved up the bark of the tree. In about 5 minutes, it climbed until it was 12 feet off the ground.  I have edited the video clips into a film that shows from this link.  
There is some
 explanation in subtitles in the clip. I will update this page with more comments later.

  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
   

   

   

May 11, 2014; There are a number of "bird boxes" in various places throughout Brazos Bend State Park. They were installed as nesting boxes for birds--especially ducks. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks like to use them.
And sometimes snakes will use them...or raid them.  I noticed something going on in this bird box in 40 Acre Lake.  As this Texas Rat Snake climbed out of the bird box, it demonstrated many 
aspects of its climbing ability. First I took some photos of the snake in the box, and when I realized what it was doing, I filmed some video.


  

The images below are frame grabs from the video clips. . I have edited the video clips into a film that shows from this link.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
   

   

   

December 02, 2012; I was on the Spillway Trail when I noticed a Texas Rat Snake moving moving up in a tree. I stopped to watch the snake.  The Rat Snake seemed to be resting, lying on a sun-warmed branch, 
and hidden by the Spanish Moss around it.  It started moving, and I watched as the 5 or 6 foot snake moved effortlessly over branches that were thinner than the snake. It finally moved up into enough

cover to prevent me from further filming.
  

The sun brought out the colors of this beautiful snake, and the pattern of large spots was clearly visible. I have edited some short video clips that I filmed into a film that shows from this link.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
   

October 21, 2012; I was on the Spillway Trail when I noticed a Texas Rat Snake moving parallel to the trail. I stopped to watch the snake.  The Rat Snake seemed to be following a trail, since it was continuously extending its
tongue. it was feeling the air with its tongue, but it was also touching the bark and various other objects in its path.

    

The invisible trail seemed to lead up the bark of a nearby tree. The snake didn't get very far before it turned around and moved back down onto the ground. Then the 
snake resumed its movement through the leave. Occasionally, a snake will open its mouth, in a slow, wide gape. The last picture below shows the lucky shot I got when this
rat snake decided to open its jaws and stretch. This is ONLY a wide gape (or a yawn). The snake was not striking at anything.

    

April 15, 2012; It was about 9:30am and I was walking down the Spillway Trail just West  of the Spillway Bridge when I noticed something odd in one of the "duck nesting" boxes, about 20 yards away from me. Something was in the entry hole. It sure didn't look like a duck's head...or anything I could easily recognise. A look through the binoculars solved the mystery. It was a Texas Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) relaxing in the opening! It looked as if it was enjoying the morning, and watching the world go by. The snake didn't move while I watched, and I finally left. This seems to be an example of a Rat Snake using a bird box for a shelter (instead of going in to hunt for young birds or eggs), but it
could have entered to box originally for that purpose.


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April 01, 2012; I was on the Spillway Trail when I noticed a Texas Rat Snake moving parallel to the trail.  It slowly moved closer to the trail, and then finally crossed it. I lost it among the leaves.

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May 02, 2010; At about 1:15 PM, I was walking on the East side of the 40 Acre lake trail when I noticed this Texas Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) relaxing in a tree next to trail. It was about 12 feet above the ground. I took a few pictures of it, then left it to enjoy the day.  

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January 04, 2009; This Texas Rat Snake moved near a trail. From the way that it appeared to be sensing along it's path, I thought it was tracking something. The last two images 
are frame grabs from a short video clip I shot before I had to move on. 
The two images show the start of a "cantilever maneuver"-where the snake bridges a gap with its body. 
The video clip can be seen here.


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May 13, 2007; I got a quick shot of this Texas Rat Snake as it crossed the trail. It shows the coloration and patterns that make it easy to identify.
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                       MOVING ALONG THE TRAIL                     

May 15, 2004; I saw some park visitors closely watching one of the bird boxes (see BIRD BOX AND VISITOR, below). When I looked, I saw what looks like a long Texas Rat Snake coming out of the box. By the time I could get to a clear vantage point, it had almost gotten to the bottom. I was able to get just the one picture. (ON THE POST, and LONG SNAKE are both cropped versions of the same image as the first one.)  Texas Rat Snakes are excellent climbers, and can turn up, evidently, almost anywhere.
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                       WHAT'S THAT ON THE POST?                                        LONG SNAKE TAIL                                               

March 14, 2004  Now, here is another example which shows that you can always be surprised at what you'll see at Brazos Bend State Park.  I was near the owls when I noticed a group of children and a teacher further away. I walked over to them and offered to show them some owls, and also to escort them past an alligator nearby on the shore of the lake. While we were looking at the owls, the teacher (day care person) pointed at one of the large hollows way up in the tree, and said she saw another owl in there. I looked, and didn't see anything. When I examined the hole trhough binoculars, I didn't see any owl. I DID see, something interesting, though. A large snake (probably a Texas Rat Snake) was already halfway into the hole, and as I watched, the rest of it slowly slid in.
After the group left, I took another look up at the hole, and here is what I saw.
 
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                        UP IN THE TREE                                                     PEEKING OUT                                                          PEEKING OUT CLOSEUP           

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                WHERE ARE THE OWLS?                                                  STARTING TO CLIMB

Peeking out from the darkness of the hole, the Texas Rat Snake (I'll be surprised if it *isn't* one) seemed a bit perplexed (see PEEKING OUT, and CLOSEUP, above).  As I watched (By the way, this all took about 45 minutes.  A nice, relaxing way to spend some time.), I would walk over to see if the owls moved (so I could get a picture), then I'd come back and check on the snake. The snake later looked off to the side (see WHERE ARE THE OWLS, and CLOSER, and EVEN CLOSER, above).
Next, the snake attempted to climb up to the next hole (see I HEARD THERE WERE OWLS, and CLOSER, below). It was probably hunting, and I wonder if it was looking for the young owls. Their scent was probably in various parts of the tree.  Now, snakes are among the animals that owls eat, and I thought about the risk the snake had taken to get all the way up there in the first place (see, THE SNAKE AND OWL, below).  That snake was *way* up in the tree!

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     I HEARD THERE WERE OWLS UP THERE                OWL IN RIGHT SQUARE, SNAKE IN LEFT                                      THERE IT GOES   

-I checked the owls again, and when I got back, the snake was investigating further. Finally, it climbed up and went into the hole above it (see THERE IT GOES, above). As always, I enjoyed being able to slow down to a reptilian pace for a while. I was also impressed by how slowly and carefully the snake moved. By moving so slowly and steadily, it would probably avoid detection by most other animals.  You never can be sure what's above you in the trees, can you.

December 15, 2002

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                    TEXAS RAT CHECKS                                TEXAS RAT CLIMBS                           TEXAS RAT CLIMBS  2                        MOVING BETWEEN TREES 

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                   LONG SNAKE, EH?                       
 While I was chasing anoles and spider eggs, I was told about a large snake in a tree a little further down the trail. Of course, I went to see it. This turned out to be a very nice specimen of the Texas Rat Snake. When I got there, it was watching a group of people on the trail (TEXAS RAT CHECKS, above). Then it started moving around (TEXAS RAT CLIMBS, above). This was a large snake. Eventually, it made its way across to another tree, and down to the ground, where it passed by, and went under another tree.  Note the safety tape in the picture. Previous visitors to this site may recognise it as the tape in the "mother alligator" pictures. It is. This is almost exactly where I took the pictures of the mother alligator and babies (Nov. 15).

If you'd like to know more about the park follow these links:

Brazos Bend State Park   The main page.

Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer's Page  The volunteer's main page.
 

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